She spent most of her adult life in the city of Mytilene on Lesbos where she ran an academy for unmarried young women. Sappho's school devoted itself to the cult of Aphrodite and Eros, and Sappho earned great prominence as a dedicated teacher and poet. A legend from Ovid suggests that she threw herself from a cliff when her heart was broken by Phaon, a young sailor, and died at an early age.
Other historians posit that she died of old age around B. The history of her poems is as speculative as that of her biography. She was known in antiquity as a great poet: Plato called her "the tenth Muse" and her likeness appeared on coins. It is unclear whether she invented or simply refined the meter of her day, but today it is known as "Sapphic" meter.
Her poems were first collected into nine volumes around the third century B. Merely one twenty-eight-line poem of hers has survived intact, and she was known principally through quotations found in the works of other authors until the nineteenth century. In scholars unearthed papyri that contained fragments of her poems.
Three centuries after her death the writers of the New Comedy parodied Sappho as both overly promiscuous and lesbian. This characterization held fast, so much so that the very term "lesbian" is derived from the name of her home island. Her reputation for licentiousness would cause Pope Gregory to burn her work in Because social norms in ancient Greece differed from those of today and because so little is actually known of her life, it is difficult to unequivocally answer such claims.
Her poems about Eros, however, speak with equal force to men as well as to women. Sappho is not only one of the few women poets we know of from antiquity, but also is one of the greatest lyric poets from any age.
Most of her poems were meant to be sung by one person to the accompaniment of the lyre hence the name, "lyric" poetry. Rather than addressing the gods or recounting epic narratives such as those of Homer , Sappho's verses speak from one individual to another. They speak simply and directly to the "bittersweet" difficulties of love. Despite scholars who argue that the otium stanza is misplaced owing, in part, to the sudden change of direction that is, allegedly, not a feature of Catullan poetry, the movement towards this stanza is signposted by the changes made to fragment 31 in poem 51 prior to lines 13—16, most notably the removal of the reference to the closeness of death at This change—an acceptable if not expected feature of the best of the poetry of imitatio —centres poem 51 more completely within the realm of eroticism per se.
Additionally, if we accept the traditional reading of the Lesbia Cycle being the outpourings of a younger man to an older woman, we witness a necessary poetic reversal of the traditional reading of the Sapphic corpus as poems written by an older woman to younger companions. The otium stanza, taken by most scholars as part of poem 51 , is perhaps an example of Catullan imitatio in more ways than one; expressly, it may not only be a rendering of a specific poem by Sappho but also a rendering of Sapphic imitatio per se.
The diversions from Mimnermus have been discussed in relation to her use of fragment 1 , and the same techniques of Sapphic imitatio can be detected in her use of fragment 5. Catullus, too, practises the same techniques. While we detect similarities between poem 51 and fragment 31, there is individualism as discussed above. Allen, A. The Fragments of Mimnermus: Text and Commentary. Annis, W. Baker, R.
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Ricerche intertestuali sulla poesia greca e latina , — Bowra, C. Commager, S. Copley, F. Di Benedetto, V. Edmunds, L. Edwards, M.
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Others say that, in the vicinity of the rocks at Athenian Kolonos, he. Related Topics Love Poetry. For by my side you put on many wreaths of roses and garlands of flowers around your soft neck. Menander F K. But it breaks my spirit; underneath my breast all the heart is shaken. As Mimnermus expresses in fragment 1.
Gentili, B. Poetae Elegiaci. Testimonia et Fragmenta. Gerber, D.
Cambridge, MA. Rabinowitz and L.
Auanger , 82— Austin, TX. Gronewald, M. Hardie, A. Itzkowitz, J. Janko, R. Jensen, R. Keeling, B.
Kidd, D. Kirk, G. Knox, P. Lanata, G. Lattimore, R. Lejnieks, V. Lidov, J. Marcovich, M. Nagy, G. Revised second edition Figueira and G. Nagy 22— Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. The Best of World Poetry. Share this poem:. Instead let me go, having been commanded to offer many prayers to Hera the Queen, that his undamaged ship should deliver up Kharaxos to us here, finding us safe and serene.